Who’s in charge and what are they in charge of?

by | 25 Apr 2023

As SNP politicians clamber over themselves to distance themselves from scandal, who is actually in charge? And for that matter, as the SNP devolves into a mess, what exactly are they in charge of?

The SNP is now just chaos. If today’s events are coordinated then the coordinator shouldn’t be coordinating things ever again. Everyone in the SNP now seems to be scrambling to distance themselves from – well, what exactly? No-one has defined the mess they’re all trying to get away from. They’re just… running, hoping that they’re running in the right direction.

This is really highlighting what is now a burning question that the SNP ought to want to get on top of quite quickly – who’s actually in charge? And what exactly is it that they are in charge of?

To get a sense of this can I ask you to start with a thought experiment. Imagine that (unwisely) Humza Yousaf followed through on his plan to go and get a coffee and a bit of a catch-up with Nicola Sturgeon. Let’s assume a sliver common sense breaks out and that this isn’t being held in a Starbucks or something and is done at the house.

So I want you to picture the scene in your mind. They’re both sitting in the kitchen having a cup of coffee and bemoaning the state of things. Get a sense of what they might talk about, the body language, the kinds of issues they might want to cover and why.

Now I want you to pull back a bit. See the scene from a little more distance, and then in your mind can you exit the house and stand just outside. Now have a look around and get a sense of your surroundings. This is my question – are you in Broughty Ferry?

You’re not, are you? You’re outside Nicola’s house where we’re all now trained to believe there is always an incident tent in the garden. I know this is true because I know that there isn’t any fibre of your being which actually thought for a second that Nicola would have to travel to see Humza rather than the other way round.

This tells you that in your heart you still do not believe Humza is in charge. You know he is, but you don’t really believe it. Your subconscious is telling you that you still think someone else is ‘really’ in charge.

So let’s see if we can work out who that is. I’m going to tell you that the SNP is now being run by a woman whose entire professional experience before jumping on the gravy bus was seven years as a part-time leisure assistant, presumably when she was at school. You also know that, but my guess is that you don’t really think Sue Ruddick is running the SNP.

Let’s keep searching. You might assume that, sans senior executives actually running things based on perceivable prior experience, it is at least being run by the senior media team. But you also know that the senior media team all resigned. You may not pick this up but if you look closely you’ll see that the media is being handled by, well, really pretty junior people.

We’re not in the New Labour position where all the politicians could disappear and Alastair Campbell would still make it look like everything was running normally. Which means we’re looking at the wider team. Remember, the Special Advisers are government appointees and can’t do party stuff. They may be running the government but they’re not running the party.

(And, for what it’s worth, you will go a very long way before you find anyone who thinks that Sturgeon’s legacy Special Advisers are impressive.)

What we learned today (as usual) is that the real victim in all of this is Nicola Sturgeon

We’ve been learning more things. We knew that the NEC wasn’t running anything because the NEC was so far down the food chain no-one told it anything. We know the Treasurer wasn’t running anything – no-one was telling the Treasurer anything because he seems to know nothing. And yet he was signing off the accounts anyway.

(He didn’t know about the camper van but it appears to be the only vehicle the SNP owns and he signed off accounts which indicated the party owned £80k worth of vehicles and he never stopped to enquire what these vehicles were that had never existed before.)

[***Except in the three minutes since I started posting this piece he has now claimed that he actually did know about the camper van. I will link to all this information just as soon as they get their lies straight.]

It is blatantly obvious that Stephen Flynn didn’t know anything. He strikes me as an honest guy and won the leadership very much against Sturgeon’s will. He didn’t get to pocket the massive bung Angus Robertson was pocketing (which came from party short money, not legitimate wages) and no-one thought it pertinent to tell him about the auditor problem.

It’s clearly not Blackford who is in charge because his habit of saying things which aren’t true runs on a pace as he lies himself through more media interviews. He’s quite clearly giving as little of a fuck as ex-Westminster leader as he did as Westminster leader. So it’s no-one in London.

Is it Cabinet? By this point you’re well into ‘please don’t let it be them’ territory. As I’ve pointed out there is only one member of Cabinet who achieved any degree of seniority in their own professional life and that is Angela Constance – and she’s definitely not in charge. The possibility that the SNP is being co-run by Shirley Ann Sommerville is like the badly-sketched-out plot of a nightmare I once had.

And we know it’s not Sturgeon because her performance today shows that by far the most important thing in her mind remains (no need to pause for suspense here) her. She has only ever done one thing in all her time since becoming leader and that is manage her own image. And she’s at it again today. No-one else matters to her but her or she would stay silent.

It was a classic Sturgeon performance which, incidentally, shares all the traits with a classic sociopath’s performance – patently lying but doing so with utter confidence, great storyteller who justifies everything they did and litters statements with emotional terms which are all about turning the sympathy back to them. It’s like a checklist. What we learned today (as usual) is that the real victim in all of this is Nicola.

No, Sturgeon is not in charge. Sturgeon isn’t even interested in being in charge. If she was interested in the good of the party she wouldn’t be doing what she’s doing. And since I can find zero evidence of a crisis management consultant having been appointed (most notably due to the clear lack of competence in the response so far), I think you need to assume no-one is in charge.

And what are they in charge of? A vehicle for independence? Yousaf says he will be a failure if he doesn’t deliver independence, yet another example of him saying things a competent PR team would prevent him from saying (because as he said the words ‘I will be a failure’ and ‘First Minister’ in one sentence he managed to get the whole country subconsciously to go ‘yup’).

There is no plan. They are playing to their base not with confidence but in desperation. Asking for a Section 30 Order? That’s not for the sake of independence. Appointing a ‘Minister for Independence’? Likewise. This is all just for show. It’s not even nearly real. Yousaf stood on a campaign promise of ‘it will take as long as it takes and I’m not telling you’. That was at least honest.

Is the SNP a job creation scheme for insiders run by whomever will keep the machine rolling for those making their money out that machine or is this a vital and crucial political vehicle for reshaping Scotland?

So if its not a vehicle for independence in any near future (and I’m dismissing the idea that the SNP now exists to deliver good government simply based on evidence), does it exist as a tool ready to spring into action when the chance of independence is near?

Let me give you a possible way to judge this. You probably don’t know this yet but one of the things the SNP ‘team’ (or whoever is in charge) is briefing internally is that no-one should worry about money because ‘if the worst came to the worst’ there’s all the branch money.

For those who don’t know about this, the SNP is supposed to be a party which is structured round its branches, the part of the party which used to have the real power (at some points in the past branches had too much power, if you can imagine it). All the branches have their own money, but it is kept in a single bank account managed by the party centrally.

There is something like £1 million in that account. None of it is the SNP’s, but it is there. So SNP central could indeed ask all the branches to hand over that money to stop the party going bankrupt if it came to it. That is the basis of their briefings – they definitely won’t go bankrupt because there is all that money there as a last resort.

This is really the heart of the question – what is the step before the last resort? If the last resort is to ask all the party’s branches to give up all their money to bail out Murrell’s deeds even though that money is meant to be there to fight next year’s General Election, what comes before that?

Or let me put that another way – does the SNP make the gravy bus redundant before or after it takes branches’ money? Is taking money the last resort for keeping the gravy bus rolling or is it the last resort to keep the party in liquidity after the gravy bus is broken up and sold off for parts?

The reason I pose this question is to work out what the SNP is now. Is it a job creation scheme for SNP insiders run by whomever will keep the machine rolling for those making their money out that machine or is this a vital and crucial political vehicle for reshaping Scotland?

I only ask this because at the moment I don’t think anyone is really in charge of this party (Mike Russell may be who is actually making decisions) and in as far as anyone is in charge it appears to be only to keep ‘saying things’ to try and cover over the serious problems in the gravy bus’s engine until they can get it purring again.

They’ve all had their chance to show that the party and its membership come first, in recognition of the party’s defining mission and who is going to deliver it. They chose not to take that chance, chose not to start a proper clean-up and are choosing to bluff their way ahead. That means that days like today will stretch on miles into the future.

The SNP is out of control and in serious peril. I’m trying to take this seriously. Who else is?


[**Two updates. First, I originally wrote that Sue Ruddick’s LinkedIn profile appeared to have been deleted. It hasn’t, I just couldn’t find it for some reason. Apologies for that.

More consequently, I appear to have been wrong about the need for SNP HQ to ask permission to take branch funds since the constitution now states “Each Branch and Constituency Association must pay to the Party such levies as may be required by the National Executive Committee”. So yes, money can be taken from branches unilaterally it would seem.]

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